Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Scent of Water. Grace for every kind of Broken.

This fine, poetic book by Naomi Zacharias is described best by it's subtitle. Grace for every kind of broken. 

The title of the book comes from the Scriptures in Job,    about the tree whose stump is dead in the ground.
"Yet at the scent of water it will bud..." The mere scent of healing and life will make a tree put forth shoots.
What if the scent of Grace could be to the heart the scent of water?
What if the scent of hope and healing could help a heart bud forth again?

Sensitive is the word to describe Naomi's writing style, a sensitivity to the truth of Scripture and to the hurting human heart. This sensitivity should characterize us as Christians.

Her love of India and other corners of the world God has made shine in this book. 
Most of us will never see these places in our lifetime- Naomi takes us there. The people and the world they live in... the exploited streets of Amsterdam where girls with wide eyes stand behind windows for sale... the little boy selling colored scarves who trotted beside Naomi and asked her to buy him milk. 
She tells us their stories... our stories. 
As Naomi says, I would be the girl behind the window, if what had happened to her had happened to me. There is no difference between us.

Once upon a time there was a  lady selling pearls. 

She showed her customer round, common, pink pearls, all the same. Objectively beautiful pearls.

Then the customer noticed a rare black pearl. It was not smooth, or pink. It caught the light and reflected it in a way the smooth pearls did not. The merchant saw the customers eyes on the rare pearl.
"'Some people see them as flawed," the merchant said,"While others see them as special."
The customer bought all four black pearls, in their uneven and unique beauty, and gifted them to friends of hers. One of those friends was Naomi Zacharias, and the little pearl became a metaphor for those whose life is not smooth, pink and flawless. Which is all of us. 

In India there was a girl, Prema, who was burned as a child trying to make tea. She is now a reconstructive surgeon, head of the department at a Christian Medical College. She treats burn victims.  "As Prema sat across from me in a striking sari of pink and green, I was captivated by her.
She exuded strength...something reminiscent of the architectural grace and genius of a pillar. She is a strikingly beautiful woman. It is not in spite of the scars, and not only because of them. A scar is not the source of beauty; it can only indicate the presence of of something that lies beneath its surface and guide you to its hidden depths. And in doing so, it becomes the symbol of beauty itself."

In the Netherlands there was a girl forced into "legal" prostitution. The girl was a branded body to the men who use her and a statistic to the outside world. A statistic without a face, until Naomi met her. Then she was a wounded girl with a real name and an aching soul- sold into slavery by a man, unprotected by the government she lives under because she is now considered a legal prostitute. Her government is proud of its sadistic "sex tourism".  The government is not the one covered in bruises and demeaned every day by brutal attacks.

The orphanage in South Africa there was a young boy was bound to a plywood board, his neck broken from being dropped as a baby. He could not move his head. But when Naomi stroked his cheek, tears rolled down his face, and his dark eyes turned to hers. He could not speak. "Words were lost in translation. But there was something that transcended limitations. It was a language, not of country or ethnicity or mental capacity, but of humanity; it was the power of human touch and the potential it carries to soothe a wound deep inside a soul."

One upon a time a theologian prayed that God would break his heart for everything that broke God's own heart. 

The pain and brokenness of the world certainly breaks our Father's heart. 
This world has little time for broken people. 
It teaches us to deny our brokenness, 
to be ashamed of brokenness, 
to hide from brokenness, to run from brokenness. 
Instead the world peddles false strength, 
false perfection, 
and false idols. 
But God doesn't want us to run from brokenness, to deny brokenness, to be ashamed of brokenness. "I thought I was running from something," Naomi writes, "As it turns out, I was running toward something. In the presence of things that were broken- dreams, intentions, ambitions, and human spirit-I found invaluable lessons in life in the vulnerability of Annie and her convicting questions; the integrity of greif and acceptance of Anna, the angst and perseverance of Mariam. These are present day examples of age old stories. These people have not established my belief in whom or what God uses, they were just revelations in real time of what God had already told me."
Naomi's writing helps break our heart a little bit so that we can open up our own brokenness to His Grace. 

I was blessed to receive my copy of Scent of Water from zondervan.

The first pages of the Scent of Water here.

The Scent of Water: Grace for Every Kind of Broken - Naomi Zacharias

Naomi Zacharias is a wife, mother, and helped found Wellspring International. Wellspring reaches out to help women and children globally, and is called "apologetics with a touch" by Ravi Zacharias, Naomi's father.
"Wellspring International identifies existing organizations aiding women and children at risk, giving financial support to vetted projects and providing individual scholarships to support education, healthcare, and basic living needs."

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sacred Search.

The Sacred Search  -     
        By: Gary Thomas
   Gary Thomas has written a book that I have filled up with notes.
 This quote is an excellent summary of why Sacred Search was written- "I am writing this book because I want you to cry tears of joy on your tenth wedding anniversary. I want you to be able to say, with all sincerity, 'Next to becoming a Christian, marrying ___ is the best decision I've ever made.'"
     I think we all want to sincerely cry tears of joy  on our wedding anniversary!
    This is Gary Thomas's vision for Kingdom Marriage. "I pray that God will raise up couples who are so in tune with each other that they will be that much stronger to withstand the inevitable spiritual assaults that are unleashed on any productive Christian. I pray Christian believers will conceive and/or adopt lots of children and let them see what a God centered view of marriage is.
I pray that while such couples will certainly need times of support and counsel as they work through the issues of their sin, even more they will be a resource to other couples--of counsel, prayer, encouragement, and example. 
We need more of these families.  There can't ever be too many of such families. There is a dearth of these families today. many of you will get only one chance to create such a family. Please choose wisely. We need you to make the right choice."

     Knowing that we are responsible to advance Christ's Kingdom, and knowing that we will be either torn down or built up by our spouse, we must marry wisely, discerning whom God would have us marry.
 They will be our best friend, our confidant, our beloved, our husband or wife.
And not only our spouse, they will be the mother or father of our babies.
And their parents will be our baby's grandparents.
For Christians looking to leave a legacy, the grandparents are essential to consider. It is a blessing like rain on a field to have godly grandparents, because they will be a secure wall around your family and teach your children Scripture with you.
 I was so glad to see this in Sacred Search.

I was also glad to see pornography handled in this book. A porn addiction is a real reason to call off an engagement. A healthy, loving marriage will not fill the hole that dark sin is occupying. You will not change them by loving them. Their perceived "needs" will not be met by your love. A book for further study on this, even for unmarried people, would be Vicki Tiede's When your Husband is Addicted to Pornography.  Her book takes an unflinching look at recovery after a marriage to a hard core porn addict.
Another idea I was pleased to see here was Mercy Marriages, which is when a person marries someone who is spiritually immature, or addicted to drugs or alcohol to "save" them. Scripture says Do not be unequally yoked.

 I love Gary Thomas' complementarian stance, and his vision for marriage.
This book emphasizes the need to agree on things before you marry, and at the same time Gary Thomas knows that agreement with each other is not enough.
To glorify God in your marriage you must agree with HIM, and make His choices your choices.
Too many couples think there are a lot of neutral choices, neither good or bad, and as long they they agree they are free to choose whatever they want.  I disagree that there are any morally neutral choices about anything, even less so about children, roles or work.
As Gary Thomas says, when talking about roles in marriage, "Ultimately this is a biblical issue more than it is a matter of what you want. After you reach that conclusion (of what Scripture teaches), find a believer who agrees with you. Some issues can be compromised on. This one shouldn't be."
(I am not sure what issues can be compromised on- other than a true matter of preference.)
My thoughts.
1. It is more important that you both agree with God than with each other.
    If your marriage is truly going to Glorify God you must seek to be taken captive by Scripture  alone and to agree with God on every issue, not just each other.
 Scripture is our final authority. If your spouse bucks having Scripture as his authority rather than his own will, you have a sin to deal with.
We must lay aside our own will and the agendas of our culture.
This is extremely needful.
We have been assaulted with the anti-Christian agendas of the world and some have learned to interpret Scripture in light of them.
A thorough study of where our presuppositions about love, marriage, children and roles came from,
who gave them to us,
and whether they were advancing the Kingdom or attacking it when they began selling us their ideas,
and then replacing these ideas with Scripture is at the core of renewing your mind.

Finding this out before marriage is imperative.

2. Some choices you feel free to agree on are NOT your choices to make.
     You can't decide how you are going to define your gender roles your in marriage. God already did, and His definitions are beautiful. A time of Scripture seeking on gender roles and roles of wives and husbands is the way to begin a marriage. A study of where egalitarian "interpretations" came from and when they cropped up would also be helpful, as well as a look at Historic Christianity and its teaching on gender. We aren't free to self define.
You also are not free to define your sexuality.
Mutual agreement is not acceptable justification for an act that God and sound sense condemns.

3. Some preferences are sins.
    If a wife is crying in shame because of her husbands "humor"- then we must find out if that "humor" was objectively shameful- crude, vulgar, obscene, foul, and so should make a Christian cry in shame.  In that case the man is in sin, and is disobeying Ephesians, where it says that we must put away crude talk and coarse joking. If he continues in crudity then he is either saturated with Culture's words instead of Scripture's words or maybe he is a non-Christian.
    If the humor was fine but the wife just does not like jokes about slipping on a banana peel, we have a different situation- a preference. And he can either love her selflessly and pack up the bananas, or she can learn to laugh with him at that innocent joke.

In a culture that devalues marriage and routinely speaks evil of this covenant that God ordained,  we need every portion of wise counsel on marriage we can get. Sacred Search raises some very good points to remember.
Gary Thomas
I would recommend that you read It's Not that Complicated by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin for a very sensible, Biblical look at relationships with a view toward purity and marriage, and that you watch Voddie Baucham's series of Videos Love and Marriage. They can be seen free on youtube.

Gary Thomas is a husband, father, and the author of Sacred Marriage and Sacred Parenting.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Little Black Books

                                These Little Black Books written by Scott              
CoverLittle Black Books: Predestination                                Petty contain a lot of information in a sturdy little jacket. Scott wants us to have our questions answered about The Bible, What Life is all about, Who the Holy Spirit is, and he wants to give us a study of Predestination, a look at Science and Scripture, a theology of Suffering, and a theology of Sexuality, as well as a look at God and why He allows evil to exist for a time. 
Scott writes in a hard hitting way that makes a ton of sense. 

Little Black Books: Sex These books are incredibly packed with truth and insights. I could give one example from each book- but that would be only the tip of the theological iceberg. They could be called small books with big writing. 
 The bold analogies he uses woke me up. Some of the analogies wake us up because they use shocking examples to convey shocking Biblical Truth.

Little Black Books: the bible (cover)
    For one example- Scott talks about how Humans are made in God's Image, but sin has ruined it. We are now like hair, Scott explains. All hair is dead, yet some hair looks better than others. No matter how clean you make your hair- it is dead and falling out. Shampoo websites insist that we can have hair self help and fix all our hair issues with enough shampoo- but it is dead. How can hair be healthy? Scott asks. "Dead=Not Healthy." We are like that dead hair, dead in sins.  And yet- with Christ we can be made alive.   

    Once upon a time we were all young with questions, and now we are older with more questions. 
Questions are not wrong- they are right! Questions mean you want answers. These books will go a long way in putting you on the road to the answers. The answers are in the Person of Christ and the Words of Scripture. These books guide you to both.
I think these books are ideal for witnessing as well as study. 
I was blessed to receive my copies in the Twelve Days of Christmas Giveaway at Bible Geek Gone Wild , and reviewed them for Cross Focused Book Reviews. 

Divine Design.

     I am loving this book! Divine Design by Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh Demoss is a joyful, beautifully written Bible study that can be completed in eight weeks or read in one night like I did.
True Womanhood is a thing of beauty, and deep in our hearts we women know it is our calling. Portions of our world today are parched lands of gender confusion. What is the point of being a woman? Why are we so different from men? Are we different from men?
Most answers fall far short of Scripture's definition of True Womanhood.
True Womanhood is a well of clear water in the parched land. When we find out that there is such a thing as True Womanhood we desire to have it ourselves.
To help meet this need True Woman 101: Divine Design was penned. This book really could be called True Woman 101, because Nancy and Mary write about so many things here that pertain to womanhood. They write with winsome spirits and without compromise.
This book is written by women who have learned in God's Word how much He loves women, and how high and holy is the office of Womanhood and they are eager to share it with all women. Because of the joy with which it is written this book would be good for mother/older daughter study, study with a group of ladies or for a woman on her own who is curious about what Biblical Womanhood is like.
God is doing something in the hearts of women all over the world- He is teaching them to love being women; to be true women. This is what our world needs, true women.
Before we can live it we must understand what a true woman is "She is, quite simply, a woman who is being molded and shaped according to God's design. She's a woman who loves Jesus and whose life is grounded in, tethered to, and enabled by Christ and His Gospel. As a result, she is serious about bringing her thoughts and actions in line with what the Bible says about who she is, and how she ought to live. She is a woman who rejects the world's pattern of womanhood and gladly wears God's designer label instead," Mary and Nancy tell us.
Saying we wear God's label is another way of saying we bear His Image as women, and His Name as Christians. We show off God's Glory in a way only redeemed womanhood can.
We are living canvasses on which God paints His pictures!!!
Isn't that awe-inspiring?
Each Christian woman can be part of God's plan to show His truth to the world through her life.
We are created for this; we can live it out, we can love our role as women, and we can show off God's Divine Design, bringing Glory to God.
Our place as a Bearer of God's Image, a wearer of God's label, gives us Dignity, and Worth.
Our Redemption in Christ gives us Life, Hope, and the Ability to live for Him.
That is the problem with feminism- it is women aborting God's plan for them and defining their purpose themselves. This is futile, because they are made with a Divine Design that can't be hidden. Our Divine Design testifies to God's plan for us and also to the Gospel, a plan that exists for our great good and His Greater Glory.
The differences between men and women are not to be rubbed out, ignored, spoken against, laughed at, or blurred to androgyny. These differences exist ultimately to point to Christ and His Bride and to remind the world of God's purposes.
The femininity of a woman who lives with a quiet spirit that trusts God and a gentleness that serves His people paints a picture of the Church. A man's masculine strength to protect and willingness to sacrifice himself to die for his Bride paint a picture of Christ.
This is why the precepts in Scripture are eternal, and can be lived out by every Christian woman, in every age, in every place, because they are lived out on earth to point to something heavenly, to point to Christ.
The truth of that was wonderful to hear, and it reminds us just how great our responsibility is.
For example, the call to be homemakers is in part because a home made homey and restful by a woman who loves her family is a portrait of Heaven itself, the believers true home.
Our actions and way of being and living as a Christian women are testimonies to the Gospel.That is why God made Man and Woman, to show His Glory to a watching world in a way one gender alone can't. That is beautiful womanhood. That is why we can say, I Love Being a Woman!
I was blessed to receive my copy from Moody Publishing free for a review
Moody Publishers | True Woman 101: Divine Design

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Six Verses that Can Change your Life.

    Reading this book is like sitting with Mr. Barnett on a front porch and listening to him explain things. 
      Mr. Barnett explains that Scripture contains the promises of God, and these promises are our storm shelter in the storms of life. We want to be able to say with Habakkuk
"Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior!" When hardship comes, we need to be Assured God loves us. When times of waiting for the unknown come, we need to be Patient. 
When times of sadness come like clouds, we need to Trust God.

When we feel like we will never laugh again, we need God's Joy. 
When times of pain and fear come, we need God's Courage, we need God's Peace.
     Mr. Barnett takes six verses of Scripture that speak to us of Joy, Patience, Courage, Trust, Assurance and Peace as the heart of his book, along with small town stories, wisdom, and more portions of God's word. He gives us Six Verses That Can Change Your Life.

   Studying these verses and making them our own truly can change our lives, because they are Scripture. God the Holy Spirit acts in us as Christians as we study Scripture: renewing our minds, changing our lives.
 As he looks at these verses Mr. Barnett gives us some gems of wisdom to think about.Here are a taste of quotes: "Don't wait for a storm to jolt you into awareness of God's grand gifts. Be aware. Be alert. Be grateful. Today notice the ordinary things- the things you usually take for granted. A patch of gorgeous green grass. A flower. A child's smile. Water."

 "Courage is rare because a sense of God's presence is rare."

"Fruit ripens slowly. Things change slowly. Wounds heal slowly. Impatience doesn't accelerate the ripening process or the healing process by a single hour."
'Psalm 27:14 is a good text to hang on to; "Wait for the LORD, be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD."
Look at the first four words-"Wait for the LORD."
Now look at the last four words: "Wait for the LORD."
In between those two "waits" is what we are advised to do in the meantime: Be strong and take heart!'
That is what I really enjoy in a book, being shown something about Scripture that I never noticed before!

This book would be a good nightstand read, a read to help you think about God's Word and to remind you to shelter in Him in life's storms. 
Sometimes serious, like when talking about heros, and sometimes funny, like when talking about computer crashes, Mr. Barnett has written a book that touches its readers. It has a friendly Southern feel to it, and that makes this book even better. I found myself identifying easily with his writing, and I was blessed to receive my copy of 6 Verses That Can Change Your Life from Mr. Barnett through

Joe Barnett is a Pastor and Author, and his writings have blessed many Christians. I am now one of them.

A look at Life from a Deer stand.

   Steve Chapman's book reminds us of the Brevity of Life. The Bible says "You'll have 70 years, 80 if you're strong."
For avid hunters not a moment is wasted but we have to keep in mind what we might be doing in lieu of hunting.
This book also points out Who is responsible for  the creation of the magnificent creature, the White Tailed Deer.
This book is a quick read, friendly, with a good mix of Deer Hunt stories and what I could term ministry. I could recommend it to any and all hunters, for me it will be something to reflect upon next fall in my Deer Stand.
~ Kirk.
 I received my copy from Harvest House Publishers for my review.
A Look at Life from a Deer Stand - Steve Chapman
Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a Christian, Husband to Annie, Father, and avid hunter. He has written many books on marriage, family and hunting, including Stories from the Deer Stand, coming in April 2013.  He is also a singer of songs like "Follow the Blood", a beautiful song, listen to it below, and visit his website to learn more about him and his family's ministry.  Steve and Annie

                                                         Follow The Blood
I watched the arrow as it flew
From the shelf upon my bow
I was sure its flight was true
When I saw the red stains in the snow
So I….
Follow the blood
That crimson sign
Follow that trail
I know I’ll find
Death that gives life
A gift from above
Sadness and joy
Follow the blood
I saw the drops of sorrow on the ground
Then at once it came to me
The hope of all mankind is found
On the way to Calvary
So I…
Follow the blood
That crimson sign
Follow that trail
I know I’ll find
 Death that gives life
A Gift from above
Sadness and joy
Follow the blood
Steve Chapman/Times & Seasons Music/BMI/2007
(From the CD, First Winds of Autumn)
Steve and Annie Chapman | Marriage & Family Books and Music

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Suffering Well.

Suffering Well (cover)
  I remember the day it first surprised me, the way Peter and Paul and John responded to suffering.

 I was reading the book of Acts, and Peter and John had just been flogged, beaten, bloodied. They were rejoicing, praising God in their suffering, almost for their suffering, they were thanking God that they were counted worthy to Suffer!  Paul did the exact same thing when he was imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked, stoned nearly dead. He rejoiced! He praised God! He counted it an honor to be like Jesus! 

Wasn't that was Jesus said though, "Take up your Cross and follow me?" The Cross was an instrument of torture, of suffering, and lead to death. The command to follow with your Cross is a command to walk behind Jesus, suffering with His sufferings, sharing in His pain. 

This was so different from the way I feel about suffering. In my flesh I want to run from it!  This message continued as I read the Gospels and the Letters to the new, baby Christians in the Church. The message was one of Christian Suffering, and Suffering Well as Christians. 

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you~ Peter.

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly ~Peter.

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus ~ Paul.

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry ~ Paul

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed ~ Paul

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing~ James

The memory of this moment returned the day I received  Suffering Well: The Predictable Surprise of Christian Suffering from Cross Focused Reviews. 

     Paul Grimmond was surprised the same way. He did not intend to write this book, he was writing a Bible study on Suffering when he found that the verses about suffering say something startling.  They were saying that we are called to suffer as Christians, even because we are Christians.

When you begin to drink in these verses and feed your soul on them, you begin to see the culture is telling us a very different story about suffering, one that has tainted the well of Truth. 
 From these verses was born Suffering Well, a book that calls us back to God's Word alone as our definition and answer for our suffering. This book is clear, concise and compassionate. Suffering Well guides us back to where the answers God has chosen to give us are found: Scripture. 
 There is so much to this book.  I could try to explain this book, instead I will tell you to read this book, and I will give you a few quotes from it.
"The Problem with the ideas presented in this book is that they are so quick to read over, yet they take so long to take root in oursouls," writes the author Paul Grimmond. "The great New Testament problem of suffering is not so much that all will suffer the pains and tribulations of living in a fallen world, but that suffering is guaranteed for those who follow a suffering Lord."
    This will be very hard for us if we think suffering means God has stopped loving us, or is punishing us in every pain. The New Testament offers us the answer to the fear that suffering means abandonment by our Father in Heaven. The New Testament sets us straight here. They rejoiced because God loved them and counted them worthy to suffer.
  "Why does Paul talk about the certainty of God's Love even in the face of death?  It is because belonging to Christ is a death sentence. Becoming a Christian means taking up your Cross and following Christ...we will only be glorified with Christ if we also suffer with Him."
That is suffering as a Christian, there is also suffering  for being a Christian.
"If we belong to Jesus, then people will treat us like they treated Jesus. There can be no other expectation in a world marked by sinful rebellion. If we genuinely want to speak the truth in love and live like our Lord Jesus lived, then people will hate us for it."

  This is why a theology of Christian Suffering is so important, so that we can encourage one another to keep following in the midst of the pain. The grind of ridicule and perverse revilement can dull a Christians Holy zeal and drive their witness underground faster than outright hate and violence can. In a situation driven by "peer pressure" like a school or a workplace Christians of all ages will be tempted to give up their profession to avoid shame.

    "We must let the New Testament teaching about shame and revilement take its rightful place in our encouragement of one another, so that we will have the strength to resist temptation when it comes our way...The fact that our suffering is less physical than others does not mean it is less important or real. We must encourage one another not to give in to shame, and we must ask God's Spirit to enable us to live faithfully as servants of our crucified King."
 And then there is the comfort we need to minister to each other.
"When we get hurt for doing the right thing, the comfort of the Gospel is that the pain is a sign of who we truly are."
This is the spirit that made the Church turn the world upside down! 
   "So we need to remember that the maligning, revilement, ridicule, persecution and even death that may come as a result are not terrors to be avoided, but signs from God to be received with joy." 
  And the final piece of the puzzle is Hope, Biblical Hope."If we are to Suffer Well, we must remind ourselves of God's Promises fulfilled in Christ. We must teach each other about the importance of the Resurrection and the future that God has in store for us. It is only as the things of this world are dimmed by the Glory of God that we will be able to live and suffer for Christ."   I am looking forward to sharing this book, now dogeared and marked with pens highlighting paragraphs with someone who needs these words. 

I was blessed to receive my copy of Suffering Well from Cross Focused Reviews

A Wonderful Interview Here. Author Talks - Episode 8 - Paul Grimmond | Bible Geek Gone Wild

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Parenting on Your Knees. Vicki Tiede's newest book.

Coming January 2013!  Using the delightful writing style God has gifted her with, Vicki comes along side the parents of Littles in her newest book Parenting on Your Knees Prayers and Practical Guidance for the preschool years.
     What marks Vicki's books is her heart to heart writing- like having a sister over to talk. In her earlier book the heart to heart was over tea or coffee- but this book is for parents of toddlers, and so this heart to heart is over diapers and sippy cups. Here is a glimpse into Vicki's heart. "I remember the exact moment I was presented with my first bundle of love. Alone at last with this little one I explored the shape of her nose, the length of her fingers, and the velvety softness of her skin. Then I snuggled her up to my heart, and did what seemed natural at the time, I thanked God and prayed for the sweet blessing in my arms. When I held my newborn in my arms and prayed, it seemed like the right thing to do. It was quiet and the two of us were bonding. I can't say praying for my children has always come that naturally. For one thing, ever since I brought home that first baby, I've not really experienced quiet like that again." 
    This book is full of both sober and funny pearls of wisdom.  
"When Children learn to respect their Mommy and Daddy they ultimately learn to respect God as their Heavenly Father as well."
"If our little ones want to help around the house give that peanut a broom, dust cloth and laundry basket! Hallelujah!"

    This book reminds us that praying for our babies is one way of pointing them to Jesus. Bringing our children to Jesus is the ultimate reason we parent them, nurture them, disciple them, discipline them. This book also encourages parents to listen to and talk with Jesus- anyway they can. 
"Read some portion of God's Word every day- even if it is only one verse."

"Keep this book or another devotional or prayer book some place you spend time every day- like the bathroom."

"Just as you long to have your children climb up in your lap and lay their head against your heart, Jesus wants you to come to Him for moments of tenderness. He isn't concerned if you climb off His lap after a short time because you are needed by your little ones. Your prayers, no matter how small, delight Jesus."

Vicki's book gets us thinking of our toddler's life in Scripture's words, and helps us pray Scripture over him now. Verses such as "If any one of you lacks wisdom,
 let him ask God who gives generously
 to all without reproach 
and it shall be given to him."
James 1:5 becomes a prayer that our little one will grow in wisdom, Whatever you do work heartily for the LORD
 and not for men, knowing that from the LORD 
you will receive the inheritance 
as your reward.
Colossians  3:23-24 
becomes a verse to pray as you teach your children to pick up toys. And all of this comes under Ephesians- Train up your children in the nurture and admonition of the LORD.  I had never thought of this before, but the prayers you pray for a baby are just as important as the prayers you pray for a son going off to work or a daughter soon to be married. Laying the foundation of prayer for your littles now as you pray for their speech skills and their sleeping through the night will result in prayer for them all of their life as you pray for their salvation and their strength and their witness for Christ. Something Vicki said I really loved, about praying for your baby's salvation. "I don't believe anyone comes to know Jesus unless someone is praying for them." This is really beautiful. What a holy gift and responsibility we have been given! No wonder we need to pray that we will be strengthened and given wisdom! We need never fear though, we are not parenting our babies alone. We have a Father who cares for us as His little ones. Our Father delights to lavish His Love on us so we can Love our children. 

Vicki Tiede 1   The beautiful cover on this book of Mother and Father playing with their children only adds to the inspiration inside. When I found out that the photographer was Vicki's daughter I was even more impressed. This mother and daughter talent paired perfectly. The cover really captures the tone of this book. Thank you to Vicki Tiede and Cross Focused Reviews for sending me this book to review. 

 Vicki Tiede is a follower of Christ, a beloved wife and mother,a writer of books to minster to the hearts of Christian women, including one reviewed here  Vicki Tiede- "When your Husband is addicted to pornography- healing your wounded heart."  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Nothing is Impossible with God.

Nothing Is Impossible with God: Reflections on Weakness, Faith, and PowerNothing Is Impossible with God Reflections on Weakness, Faith, and Power will take you on a healing journey
through emotions and struggles many Christians seem afraid to touch upon.
This book's encouragement truly helped me to be honest and real with God, who knows everything in my heart already. I don't have to worry about Him forsaking me if I am honest with Him, He has promised that He never will. You and I can take what is in our heart to Him no matter how harsh it is, our fallen hearts don't produce pretty things, but God already knows that.
It also encouraged me to get rid of the idea that I have to make my prayers sound really good or devout before He is willing to answer them, or that I have to get Him at the "right time" so He will answer them.
Rose Marie Miller's story is an amazing testimony to God's unconditional love. She grew up in a cold disconnected family, where her mother attempted to kill herself but was prevented by Rose Marie. After this Rose Marie's life only grew worse; her parents refused to talk about her mother's mental illness and grew angry when she tried to bring it up. Although her family attended a church and she knew Jesus died for sinners this was never personal to her. Even as a wife to a pastor she did not understand. Rose Marie writes, "Nothing is impossible with God. I had always heard this but for a long time it didn't seem to be true for me. For much of my life I kept God at a distance. building walls of self protection and self reliance. I said I was a Christian but my life said, 'I can manage without God.'"
Finally one day the walls built around her heart were not sufficient and she finally confessed to herself that she doubted God even existed or if He did then He was a dark cloud over her life, a cloud of fear, guilt, condemnation and loneliness. On the outside her life as a mother and a pastor's wife seemed to be all together but on the inside she lived under moralism and legalism, desperately searching for approval and retreating from conflict.
One day Rose Marie attended a conference her husband spoke at and she tried to sit away from the other people, thinking she wouldn't learn anything from it anyway. Suddenly a Bible verse that she did not even recognize came through her mind. It was Song of Solomon 4:12 "A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a rock garden locked. A spring sealed up." Right there she realized that was the way she felt, like a garden walled and locked, unable to express her emotions ever since she was a child. She had reasoned that if she couldn't feel she wouldn't hurt. The Verse gave her hope because, "I sat on that bench, a self-righteous failure- so many painful emotions locked up inside me. I knew that God was unlocking the gate, so to speak, to show me a whole new picture of myself. Where I saw rotten fruit and weeds, he saw fruit and spices. Where I saw mud and sludge; he saw a fountain, a well of fresh water, and flowing streams."
Though she didn't accept God yet the truth that He loved her and had a heart for her had started her spiritual journey.
After reading an introduction to Martin Luther's commentary on Galatians the truth of Jesus broken for sinners was made real, "I suddenly saw Jesus broken for me. My moralsim, pride, and self-righteousness were exposed and covered at the same time. Finally I understood what Luther was saying: that Jesus's righteousness covered all my unrighteousness."
"Now I understood that I could turn to Christ and ask for forgiveness, and his righteousness would cover all of that. All my excuses were gone, and I accepted Christ's perfect record as what I needed. All my self-righteousness made me a spiritual paralytic, but Christ's righteousness brought peace, healing and restoration. God reached into my life and dealt with my fundamental sin."
Suddenly she began to understand that her past thinking and life had been centered around moral failure and success, blaming others to cover her own judgement of her self, trying to bury herself in work and duty. Now she began to see sin forgiven because of His beautiful grace.
There is much more to this book, and to her life story. Rose Marie Miller had five children, twenty-four grandchildren and twenty great grandchildren when this book was written. Her ministry has touched her family and many others whom she ministered to, and now it touches her readers. Her own life story impacted me most, and it makes her reflections on Scripture all the more powerful, when you know how God brought her to Himself. Nothing is impossible with God is a must read. An encouraging and Grace filled book and an amazing story of her transformation and continuing walk with her Savior.
God can use Nothing is Impossible with God in amazing ways in your life.
I was blessed to receive this book from New Growth Press for a review.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Donkey who carried a King.

 The Donkey Who Carried a King

     When little Reilly comes home weeping because he is chosen last for the boy's games, Grandpa asks Reilly if he has ever told him the story of the Donkey who carried the King.
    "'No, Grandpa,' he said, 'I’ve never heard that story, but I’d love to hear it now.' So Grandpa sat down, and Reilly sat on his knee. Reilly didn’t feel too old for that." One of my favorite parts of Dr. Sproul's books is the presence of a wise, dignified, loving, Godly Grandfather in each book.

    "'You know, Reilly,' Grandpa started, 'several years ago, I went to Jerusalem, and I saw a funny sight. Lots of people rode on little donkeys. The donkeys in Jerusalem are small compared to the ones here in America. They only grow to be about three or three and a half feet high.' "
      There once was a little donkey named David, called Davey. Davey was all alone in a little pen, and he felt sad that he was never chosen to do any important work. Other donkeys, like Old Barnabas, had wonderful stories about work they had done. Old Barnabas was a wise old donkey, and he was once owned by a young carpenter named Joseph. Once, Barnabas had carried Joseph's wife on a long journey to pay their taxes. Joseph's wife had given birth to a very special Baby- a Baby who was Born to Save His people.  Davey loved listening to Barnabas tell him this story.

     Then one day came when two men came to Davey's owner,  and they wanted a donkey. They said simply "The Lord has need of Him." Davey was brought to a kind man who rode him into the city, and as they went into the city people stood beside the road throwing down their cloaks for Davey to walk over and shouting Hosanna! The King of Israel is Coming! Davey was carrying the King! This was the Baby Barnabas had carried, and now David was carrying Him!

 Davey was very proud of Himself, knowing he had carried the King.
 After that, the owner began to let Davey carry burdens. Olives and Grapes. Heavy burdens. Davey was not carrying a King, he was carrying burdens. Burdens so heavy they made him stumble and fall.
David was not proud to be worked this way. He had carried the King!

One day, a servant was leading the laden Davey through the city, when Davey saw the gentle King again. The King was covered in cuts and bruises. People had slapped Him and spit on Him and he had been hurt. No one was helping him, instead he was carrying a long wooden beam on his torn back. As Davey watched, the King fell to the ground under its weight.
 Davey was pulled away by the servant, but he was heartbroken. Why the King carrying such heavy burdens?
When Davey returns to the pen Old Barnabas gently tells him that part of being the King who saves His people was carrying that beam- it was His cross beam, on which He would die.

Davey was amazed. “So the King was being a servant to others,” he said. “Yes, Davey,” Barnabas said. “It is a terrible thing that He is being treated so badly. But what He is doing is wonderful.”

"He was a King, but He was a servant to His people.” Grandpa explains. And Davey has lessons to teach us- about being content with any job we are given, about not being too proud to carry the wheat after carrying the King, about being thankful for the strength to do our job, and most of all about learning from the King who carried the Cross-beam, who fell on the ground under His burden as He walked to a death that would save us. “And do you know what, Reilly?" Adds Grandpa "Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose again from the grave three days later and He reigns forever with His Father in heaven. That’s the best news of all.” The Donkey Who Carried a King is a lovely book that looks at Carrying the Cross and carrying our crosses from the eyes of a dear little donkey.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sammy and His Shepherd.

  Sammy and His Shepherd reminds us that to be called Christ's Flock of Sheep is both accurate and wonderful. Accurate because we wander away, we aren't wise enough to know grass from a poisonous weed, we fall off of cliffs trying to get "better" grazing than in the safe pasture, and if we roll onto our back we cannot right ourselves without our Shepherd.

Wonderful because Jesus chose to carry us as a Shepherd carries His Sheep, and knowing a little bit about the many ways a Good Shepherd cares for His flock gives us a tiny glimpse into Christ's care for us.

 Sammy and His Shepherd is a long children's book- 60 pages and every page beautiful. At the end Child-on-the-right said "It's OVER?!!!" She did not want Sammy's story to end.
Sammy is a little sheep whom the  Good Shepherd bought when he was sick. The Shepherd prayed for Sammy and cared for him tenderly. Sammy was restored to health and the Shepherd named him Samuel "Heard of God" because God heard His prayers. The name was a sign of the Shepherd's Love, and the fact that Sammy has a name at all is surprising to a little thin sheep in the next pasture. The thin little sheep has no name and lives in a dirty, dry pasture.
 Sammy lives in green pastures beside still waters and has plenty because of his Good Shepherds care. "Early morning was Sammy’s favorite time of the day. The air was crisp, the grass was yummy, and everything was still as the night softly melted into day. Sammy called it his quiet time. He liked to use the time to think about all of his blessings. "

 The little Sheep doesn't think she has any blessings, except for Sammy, who calls her My Friend and talks to her every day. When it is time for the Good Shepherd to take His flock to summer grazing, My Friend is so desperate that she tries to follow them, and gets stuck in a fence. 
 Just as the evil shepherd is about to beat My Friend with his staff for trying to escape, the Good Shepherd frees her from the fence and buys her from the evil shepherd. Then he carries this sick, dirty, nameless sheep home.
"As he walked, the shepherd whispered to My Friend. “Now you belong to me,” he said. “The only way you could become part of my flock was for me to redeem you—to buy you. But now you are mine. No one can ever take you away from me. I will never leave you, and I will always lead you on good paths.
“Now,” he grinned, “what shall I name you?"
 The Good Shepherd names her Precious, and she begins to learn what it is like to be part of the Good Shepherd's flock. This book follows Psalm 23, and my summary of it does not do it justice. These sixty pages contain truth after truth. This book will not disappoint.

“It takes time to learn to trust our shepherd,” Sammy said with a smile. “The more you know him, the more you’ll trust him. You’ll even trust him when you don’t understand what he’s doing or why he’s doing it.”

Vocational Vision.

 Chucking College- Melanie Ellison writes about Vocational Vision. 
 "So what are we to do? It is evident that colleges breed immorality, strip away Bible-based beliefs, rarely provide a worthwhile education, and drain bank accounts as exorbitant tuition costs plunge students into debt. But how do we prepare for a life-long vocation without college? Is it even possible?  
     To find vocational direction, first, it is necessary to identify what we were each individually created to do. The question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" is too open-ended to be of much help to most people.
     However, three God-given parameters of one's existence make it mush less vague to ascertain one's life-purpose. 
    To find your niche in life, it is necessary to realize that your are first a Christian, then a Woman, and finally an individual with specific talents.
    Most career guidance only takes into account a young person's talents. But really that is the final thing to consider, not the first. If the first two factors are ignored when seeking one's life vocation, a young lady might find herself working in a field where her talent can shine, but where her faith cannot thrive, or holding an office of authority that perhaps a woman ought not to have, thus finding herself catapulted into unnecessary lifestyle stresses.
    According, in part, to Webster's 1828 dictionary, the word "vocation" means: a calling by the Will of God to a Noble occupation, accompanied  by a strong feeling of suitability to that particular work. Therefore, we must look at the whole equation (not just the talent) to determine what vocation God has called each of us to. As we look at each of these three areas, we can analyze what kind of education would best fir these three parameters well."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Life and Death Dilemma.

 Has your family ever wrestled with a life and death crisis?  Have you ever been forced to wonder:

"Are we prolonging Grandpa's life, or just causing him pain, or should we 'let him go?'"
"The doctors say she has no chance of coming out of this coma. She is only a child! Do we keep her alive any longer?"
"He says he refuses to be a burden on us, he feels like he would be taking something away from someone who needs it more. He says he will kill himself first."

These plain, flat words do not carry the distress of such a time, not at all.  On the inside of the crisis we might feel no one understands our private pian, on the outside looking in we might feel that these are all private crises, with private choices to be made.
Joni reminds us "These crises are not private. While straining to cope with their own pain, people are learning that they are part of a confusing debate in society over medical issues ranging from physician-assisted suicide to rationed health care...The pain and confusion expressed by people in crisis has made it fashionable to (and compassionate according to some) to talk about a simple yet deadly solution: Give it up. It's not worth the pain." 

I have felt since I first met her books that Joni was the woman to talk about life, death and suicide/euthanasia.
She knew the desperation of daily pain- let her tell you about it! "I had absolutely no idea of how I could find purpose in just existing day after day- waking, eating, watching tv, sleeping. Why on earth should a person be forced to live out such a dreary existence? How I prayed for some accident or miracle to kill me. The mental and spiritual anguish was as unbearable as the physical torture."
 What if it is not a loved one you are watching- what if it is you? How do you answer these questions- of meaning, of the value of life, or personhood. How do you refute the lie that function determines value in a society where human life is increasingly cheapened?
"The questions seem impossible. How could there be any answers? How am I supposed to know what to do? You don't."   Where shall we go for true answers to these questions?  Joni continues, "But God does...I am convinced of this logic because of what God has promised. In Christ, He says, "Are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge." 

It is very easy to plead ignorance when faced with an impersonal voting ballot on which we are asked yea or nay to euthanasia and assisted suicide, and say "It's none of my business- they want to die it is their right-it does not affect me!"
But we are deceived if we think so. Their death by assisted suicide/euthanasia will affect us. As Joni points out- the logical end of euthanasia is sheer terror, and what we write into law now will affect the next generation of disabled people who will be pressured into taking the "safe and legal" option we gave them.  This is part of the fundamental truth of euthanasia- it is sold to us as the right to die- and all too soon becomes the duty to die for the good of society. Die- you are taking up a bed. Die, you are using up rationed health care. Die, you no longer serve the state.
 Whether you are the child of an elderly father who is afraid he is "taking up room", or a desperate young person who says "It is my choice-" it isn't yours alone.
Your choice matters to others- even people you don't think care would be devastated. There is somebody who cares.

Your Choice Matters to God. The One who gave your your Life and sustains it.

 Your choice matters to the enemy. The whisper in your ear to take your life? That comes form the one who wishes you would be murdered. Your enemy has been a murderer from the beginning.
    Joni explains these points in her logical, compassionate way, explaining the stories of people who chose to die and those who fought to live. I recommend this book for anyone interested in a response to assisted suicide/euthanasia. Joni has filled her book with her own testimony, stories from friends and family, and scholarly research about euthanasia and suicide.
 I was blessed to receive The Life and Death Dilemma for a review from Zondervan. 
 You may read the First Chapter Free.

Joni Tada is an advocate for disabled people and is the founder of Joni and Friends Ministries. She is a beloved wife, friend, and speaker as well as the author of may fine books including two reviewed here When God Weeps  and  Diamonds in the Dust.  For rich theology lived out in daily life, read Joni Tada.  Joni and Ken Tada, outside of Joni and Friends.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Finding God in the Land of Narnia.

This book is a lovely little book. The Lion on the cover and the textured paper front pages are the beautiful outside of this little book about Narnia. The inside of this book contains Jim Ware and Kurt Bruner's meditations on Scripture and the life lessons from Scripture mirrored in Narnia. Every time I open the pages of Narnia I begin to breathe the Narnian air afresh.
Finding God in the land of Narnia was a breath of Narnian air. I was so glad I could receive my copy in the Tyndale Rewards Program.

This book weaves Scripture, C. S Lewis and Narnia's stories to speak to us today. C. S. Lewis lived on this earth with a desire more desirable than any pleasure- a longing for something earth could not satisfy. When he studied Christianity he understood. Nothing in this earth can satisfy us and each desire that nothing can fill here is a desire placed in us to be filled in Heaven. His Narnian stories are full of this desire, and the glimpses of beauty that eased the gnaw.

"Have you ever felt that bittersweet pang, that stab of Joy, that soul piercing arrow of heartbreaking loveliness and longing that, for Lewis and Shasta, was 'shot from the North'? It comes to each of us in a different way. We encounter it in the light of a red gold sunset, the melancholy of a misty seascape, the cold gleam of stars among bare branches on a winter's night; in 'the smell of a bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead...the morning cobwebs in late summer, or noise of falling waves.' Wherever we meet it, it confronts us with inescapable evidence that we, like Jack and Shasta and the Old Testament Patriarchs, are 'strangers and pilgrims on the Earth' Hebrews 11:13, exiles in a foreign land, hoping to discover a way back home."

Spending time thinking of Noble, Beautiful, Sacrificial deeds helps our battle here on earth as well as makes us ache for heaven.
Character we admire in people in Narnia- Puddleglum's willingness to burn the flesh of his foot in the fire to stomp out the witches green magic flame- becomes character we want to own. We want to burn our feet rather than inhale that sweet and sick perfume that is wrapping around us, mixing with the magic thrumming and the words of deception.

We feel our hearts beat with King Tirian and Jewel and Jill and Eustace in the Last Battle, the smoke and the sweat and the blood and the ducking under swords, and then the Stable Door.
And suddenly-it thrills me now as I write it- the freshly bathed feeling, the cool comfortable clothes, the Kingly kiss from the High King of Narnia, and you are being given fruit from a tree of Life to eat. You have left the Shadowlands behind, the dream is over, the Day is beginning, the term is over, the Holidays are beginning, and all your life before was the cover and the title page, now the Story that will never end has begun, every Chapter better than the one before.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Deliverer.

The Deliverer.
Authors website. Kathi Macias

The Deliverer, Freedom Series #3   -     
        By: Kathi Macias
The Deliverer completes the story of Mara, a child forced into prostitution who was set free with the help of Jonathan, a Bible college student. Mara is eighteen now and is  trying to deal with her attraction to Jonathan even though she has never met a man she can trust. Jonathan too is drawn to Mara but knows that unless she becomes a Christian God's blessing will not be on their relationship.  His friendship with another young woman Sarah begins to complicate things when Sarah thinks that he is serious about her.
 Lawan is finally reunited with her little sister and her new parents, but struggles to understand her new life in a strange country and a completely different setting,  I was very grateful that her adoptive parents accepted this and didn't push her or ridicule her but instead allowed her to show her emotions and loved her unconditionally. 
   Just as with the others in the series The Deliverer had a very  powerful message and a relevant message, this time being Godly mentors and families for those without caring families. We see this lived out in Barbara helping Mara and Lawan's adoption. 
I really admire the fact that the author must have done in-dept study for these books and wrote about the facts and information she found, I hope they impact or awaken someone to the tragedy of sex trafficking.
I received this book free from New Hope in exchange for an honest review.